Quantcast 2011 NBA Eastern Conference Playoffs: Round One - Orlando vs Atlanta

 

2011 NBA Playoff Preview – Eastern Conference First Round

Eastern Conference First Round Game 1 - Atlanta 103, Orlando 93 – Hawks lead series, 1-0

 

 

Oh, what a difference a year makes.

Three hundred plus days ago the Atlanta Hawks were being demolished in a second round playoff series by the Orlando Magic. Back then, the Hawks were defeated in all four games of the series by double-digit margins. Two of those losses occurred by spreads of 30 points or more. The four games involved a cumulative margin of victory of 101 points, the largest in NBA playoff history. The Hawks were embarrassed, undressed and shamed in front of national television audiences, their own fans, and the pro basketball community, which pays attention to the ways in which reputations are made in the crucible of postseason competition.

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Now fast forward to April 2011. The Hawks had no reason to be trusted and no right to be taken seriously as they returned to the playoffs with Orlando on the docket in the first round. There was no reason to think that Amway Arena in Orlando would play host to a different sort of narrative or witness a new spirit in the Hawks, a team that’s cultivated a well-developed reputation for wilting in the postseason spotlight.

Yes, Atlanta still has a long way to go, but at least for a few days, the script has been flipped in the Southeastern corner of the NBA’s universe. Amazingly yet undeniably, coach Larry Drew’s team actually showed the backbone that’s been missing for far too long a time in Georgia.

The Hawks simply dominated the Magic on Saturday evening in Orlando, despite a heroic 46-point, 19-rebound performance from Dwight Howard. Interestingly, Saturday night’s game wasn’t the first breakthrough for the Hawks while facing the Magic. Atlanta won three of the four meetings during the regular season. Yet, the ability to do the need in the playoffs is what matters, and that’s why this Game 1 result is so stunning. Three more victories in this series would advance Atlanta to the second round and provide the ultimate atonement for last season.

 

 

The Hawks grabbed control of the contest early in the second quarter and never let off the gas pedal. Atlanta produced a balanced offense, unlike the Magic. Five players score in double figures for the Hawks, led by Joe Johnson’s 25 points. Jamal Crawford had 23 off the bench and the Hawks blistered the nets to the tune of 51 percent shooting on the evening.

It was a disappointing turn for the Magic, who wasted one of the great playoff performances of recent memory. Howard deserved a lot better than he got after his Herculean display, and teammate Jameer Nelson, who threw in 27 points, wasn’t chopped liver, either. Howard and Nelson combined for 73 points. The remaining Magic scored just 20. That has to change if Orlando is to reaffirm its 2010 playoff mastery of a suddenly confident Atlanta squad.

 

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By: Matt Zemek
Pro Basketball Fans Staff Writer


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